Idaho ranks 49th in the U.S. when it comes to the number of doctors per capita. The only state with a lower ratio of doctors is Mississippi.
Map: Emilie Ritter Saunders | Data Source: Association of American Medical Colleges
Doctor shortages are a problem in many states. But there are a number of reasons why Idaho’s problem is worse than others.
For one thing, Idaho doesn’t have its own medical school. Then there are obstacles all rural states face: Difficulty attracting doctors to places where salaries, schools and job opportunities for spouses aren’t as good as they can find in metro areas.
The Association of American Medical Colleges ranks physicians per 100,000 people in the 50 states. The most recent report shows Idaho had 2,873 active physicians in 2010. This includes M.D.s and D.O.s. That means Idaho had 184 doctors per 100,000 people.
By contrast, top-ranked Massachusetts had the most doctors per capita according to the 2011 report. The state boasts 27,550 physicians which breaks down to 416 per 100,000 people.
Of course, having a lot of doctors in a state is no guarantee of good health for its people. But in Idaho’s case, many doctors are convinced that the shortage has created real barriers to care.
Boise doctor Ted Epperly is one of them. “What that means practically for people is they live sicker and die younger,” says Epperly, who runs the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho program.
“Acute problems aren’t treated or just get better by themselves, chronic problems fester…all this has a cumulative effect downstream. That effect is poorer health.”